One of the best known, most widely used, and least researched models that managers are introduced to is ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’.
Maslow argued that our motivations and values change as our needs change. Once a need is fulfilled, we turn our focus onto the next one, in a hierarchy from physiological needs for survival and shelter, up to higher needs that, arguably, drive those of us who have everything we ‘need’.
You can read all about Maslow’s Hierarchy in The Motivation Pocketbook.
Clare W Graves
Clare Graves was a student and near contemporary of Maslow, who wanted to produce a better model. In doing so, he focused on different views of self actualisation and categorised a whole hierarchy of value systems.
His model, now formalised as ‘Spiral Dynamics’ sets out a series of value sets that mark out increasingly mature world views. It takes Maslow’s model to a higher level of complexity.
These world views can be interpreted as personal value sets, or as group cultures. They represent the different ways different people think about issues. As we as individuals, organisations and societies progress up the spiral, we are coming to grips with more complex and sophisticated ways of seeing the world.
The Levels of Spiral Dynamics
In simple terms, the levels of the spiral are:
- Beige: Need for personal survival – focus on the present
- Purple: Need for group and family security
- Red: Need for personal power and control
- Blue: Need for stability, order and conformity
- Orange: Need for autonomy and success – a capitalist paradigm
- Green: Need for harmony, community and social cohesion
- Yellow: Need for independence and personal responsibility
- Turquoise: Need for global community and global survival
The usual thing
Whilst Graves originated the thinking behind the model, it was formalised and given the name ‘Spiral Dynamics’ in the 1996 book ‘Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change ’ by Don Beck and Chris Cowan. As is often the way (for example, with Situational Leadership), the authors have developed the model in slightly different ways. You can read about their interpretations at:
… the website of Chris Cowan’s NVC Consulting, and
… the website of Don Beck’s Spiral Dynamics Integral
So here’s the deal
Models are useful if they explain or predict aspects of the world. Spiral Dynamics – in either interpretation – offers a way to understand people’s responses to situations and also the cultures of organisations and societies. Culture clashes emerge when sub-groups are forced together, that have value sets at different levels in the spiral.